City Denies NBC Report that Inspector Took Blame for Building Collapse

Last week, NBC 10 reported that the L&I inspector responsible for checking up on the site of the June 5th building collapse left a contrite video message before he committed suicide, essentially taking the blame for the accident. In part, NBC found, he said: “It was my fault. I should have looked at those guys working, and I didn’t.”

Friday, the Mayor’s office shot back, with spokesman Mark McDonald claiming that NBC got the story wrong. According to McDonald, the inspector, Ron Wagenhoffer, left two short messages. In them, McDonald reported, Wagenhoffer said “It wasn’t my fault” (Emphasis mine), that he’d been having trouble sleeping, and that he “wished he’d been more diligent and done something more.” McDonald denied, however, that Wagenhoffer assumed blame or did anything wrong professionally. NBC 10 says it has seen the video and is not retracting anything.

So what’s going on here? There are a few possibilities. NBC 10 could have misreported Wagenhoffer’s apology, transcribing “it was my fault” when he said “it wasn’t my fault.” Mark McDonald could be misrepresenting the video in order to take the blame off Wagenhoffer, his family, and, of course, L&I. Or it could be something in between. Since McDonald and NBC both reported that Wagenhoffer expressed a desire to have “done something more” and wished he had “gotten out of his truck,” McDonald may just be making a subjective claim that this does not constitute an “admission of guilt.”

More to come, surely.